2 October, 2020

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What Next? Some Thoughts On The Post-NCM Vote

By Sumanasiri Liyanage

Sumanasiri Liyanage

My good friend, Prof Jayadeva Uyangoda’s recent article in Colombo Telegraph has shown the total bankruptcy of the liberal bourgeois reading of the current political situation in Sri Lanka. His reading and reasoning are instrumental in the sense that it aims at proving that the January 8, 2015 agenda is the best available option for Sri Lanka. Following the old adage, “gilenna yana miniha piduru gaheth ellenawa” (a person who is going to drown will hang even into a straw), liberal bourgeois analysis tends to prescribe that the January 8, 2015 agenda be revitalized at the event of the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s victory on April 4 over the no-confidence motion (NCM) moved by the Joint Opposition. Hence, Prof Uyangoda has once again raised their hopes and expectations that the January 8, 2015 agenda can be implemented in the next eighteen months if we cease this new opportunity. The no-confidence motion was defeated in the Parliament by 46 votes. All the MPs of the United National Front (UNF) voted against the NCM in spite of some signs of dissidents when the NVM was moved. The Tamil National Alliance, and the two Muslim Parties voted with the UNF ensuring the Prime Minister’s victory. One of the key partners of the January 8, 2015 movement, Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) voted for the NCM. In spite of the JVP decision to distance itself from the other actors of the January 8, 2015 movement, one may with some justification wonder that the defeat of the NCM has created once again a space to rekindle the principal items of its agenda.

There is no doubt that the defeat of the NCM has somewhat changed political configuration in the Parliamentary sphere of politics. Of course, the April 4 vote is a tactical victory for the Prime Minister. He has shown time and again that he has been capable of dampening the opposition to his leadership by using the UNP constitution and deviating the attention of his dissidents. Some of his dissidents may be promoted to positions in the Cabinet but the control of the party would remain basically intact. PM’s position within the UNP may get strengthened as the victory over the NCM has raised the self esteem of the UNP and its members vis-s-vis the SLFP, its governmental partner. Nonetheless, it is incorrect to come to a conclusion that this victory at the parliamentary sphere reflects change of political configuration at the mass politics level. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) experienced in the course of the NCM its third split since 2014. While the PM and the UNP wing of the so-called national government is able to get an upper hand in the Cabinet and the unity government in the next 18 months, the President Maithripala Sirisena’s position would get more and more weakened as a consequence of the NCM vote. If the 16 SLFP dissidents are forced to leave the Cabinet and the government, his position in the Cabinet equation would get further weakened and he will be reduced to de facto nominal executive his remaining constitutional powers notwithstanding. In my opinion, reflecting on his action and performance in the past three years, President Maithripala Sirisena deserves this dismal situation he is in today.

It is interesting to note that the liberal analysis assumes that these changes in political configuration in the Parliamentary arena would be conducive to quick implementation of constitutional reforms, legal actions against corruption, full adoption of human right resolution and substantive economic reforms. It appears that this view is also shared by the so-called international community (i.e Western powers) and the Colombo civil society. Although the PM’s victory is substantial, it was achieved at a reasonably high cost.

First and foremost, President’s previous disliking towards the PM would now turn into direct confrontation. This reminds us so-called co-habitation government of President Chandrika Bandaranaike and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe of 2002- 2005. Of course, President Sirisena can do the same as the presidential powers were clipped by the 19th Amendment. Irrespective of the changes introduced in the 19th Amendment, President still can change the cabinet without getting the consent of the PM. In my opinion because of bad drafting of the 19th Amendment the President can remove the PM if s/he wants to do so. As the conduct of Maithripala Sirisena during the local government election campaign has demonstrated, he may not be hesitant to use his power to disrupt PM’s initiatives in many matters.

Secondly, the forthcoming Provincial Council elections would be another testing ground of the mass opinion. Contrary to the sphere of Parliamentary politics, the permutations and combinations are different in mass politics. For example, we have seen that the budgets of the so-called yahapalana government were passed by two-third majority, but in the sphere of mass politics they were totally rejected. February 10 local government election result is a reflection of how masses react, reflect and vote. So the heat of the PM’s victory may be cooled off in the forthcoming Provincial Council elections.

Thirdly, the promised changes in the UNP would not be an easy exercise. There are many contenders for cabinet positions. Can those aspirations be met within the constitutional limits imposed on the size of the cabinet? Party supporters may ask after the forthcoming Provincial Council election, the same old question: Can Ranil Wickremesinghe win the presidential election? So half-baked changes would postpone the inner crisis of the UNP, but would reemerge soon.

Fourthly, PM and the UNP might have given so many promises to individuals and parties to get their support at the NCM election. Support sometimes comes with a high price tag. It has been revealed that the TNA had voted against the NCM on the basis of 10 point agreement. Can the PM deliver them especially in the context that the government may no longer have two-third majority.   

Finally, soon after his victory, the PM has emphasized that he would implement his ‘developmental’ program. Since 1977, the country has witnessed the adoption of neoliberal policies, but different regime had given its own coloring to neoliberalism. This is not a place to discuss them in detail, but some words may be relevant.

1. 1977- 1987: Neoliberalism with grant based heavy infra-structure development;

2. 1987- 1994: Neoliberalism with the emphasis on consumer and government sponsored job creation;

3. 1994- 2002: Neoliberalism with no any direction (a lost decade);

4. 2002- 2005: Neoliberalism with liberal piece and base don the unification of the home market;

5. 2005- 2015: Neoliberalism with the element of developmental state;

6. 2015- – : Neoliberal fundamentalism.

Although the every regime since 1977 have worked within the neoliberal framework, the regimes of 1977- 1987, 1987- 1994 and 2005- 2015 were careful and creative to give it some kind of national flavor. Neoliberal fundamentalism from 2015 has ruined the economy whatever the indicator one uses. The continuation of the same policies would generate mass discontent and mass protests and uprisings. The loss of two-thirds majority, the split of the SLFP and the continuation of neoliberal economic policies would in fact exacerbate the crisis.

The crisis Sri Lanka is facing today is not conjunctural but structural in character. Regime revision, and/or regime change will not be adequate to meet a crisis of this magnitude. So the present and continuing crisis give a space that should be used not to struggle for a January 8, 2015 agenda but to fight for a systemic transformation that none of the three main parties can offer. 

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Latest comments

  • 7
    0

    Most of the C.T readers wanted this NCM to be defeated(including me) and bring a NCM against the SLFP mp’s who voted for the NCM.(including me)So that Ranil could start with a clean sheet.Now look what Ranil has done.He had asked to withdraw the NCM which was brought agaist this SLFP renegades.This Ranil never learns
    from his mistakes.
    This Ranil was /is and will be a deal maker for ever.Shameless.40 wasted years.Gone back to his “radical habbits” again.
    AKD gave a good speech about this man on that NCM day.AKD thank you.If i was Ranil i would have wrapped my trousers around my neck and gone home with my amude.

    • 0
      1

      Thanks Sumane: Good critique of Uyangoda’s pro Ranil Manichean crap!

      Quite right, the crisis in Lanka is Structural and neither Bondscam Ranil or Jarapassa family are the solution because both are corrupt criminals who use attacks on minorities to Divide, DISTRACT the moda masses and RULE.
      Ranil’s UNP goons have attacked the Sirasa and News First media, just like Jarapassa did!
      Also, bi-partisan UNP-SLFP corruption racket IS the structural crisis in Lanka today, organized and brokered by Ranil’s Washington handlers and “policy advisers” whose anti-China game is: Sri Lanka is: “Heads I win, Tails you lose”.
      Avant guard scammer US citizen Gota is the Manchurian Candidate for President of Lanka today protected by Bondscam Ranil. S. Modayas are screwed in this game.
      Anti Tamil 1983 riot/ pogrom, and on Muslims in 2018, all happened during the UNP regime pushing neoliberal reforms for which the minorities were scapegoated as the economy crashed due to corruption.
      Anti Muslim riots were to distract us from Bond scam organized by Pathala Champika Mega Polis BBS and Mahasohon Patron to benefit Ranil and keep mega ego Pathala as China’s emperor..
      Bottom line is, Bondscam Ranil must be impeached for Grand Larceny at the Central bank of Sri Lanka sooner or later and Ranil should share a prison cell with Mahinda Rajapaksa, and US citizens Basil and Gota the Avant Garde Navy Scammer.
      Long live Miracle of Modayas!

      • 0
        0

        True that bi-partisan UNP-SLFP governance corruption racket is a structural crisis in Lanka today. It is organized and brokered in the name of Fake RECONCILIATION by Ranil’s Washington handlers and “policy advisers” who are playing games with Lankan people with Sinhala Buddhist diaspora and US citizens Gota and Basil, whose anti-China game in Sri Lanka and Myanmar where Buddhist Wahahism is running amok, is: “Heads I win, Tails you lose”.

  • 2
    0

    Those who voted against the Prime minister, especially the cabinet ministers, have no moral right to be in the cabinet.They went to such low ebbs to stay as politics is a profit-making business for them.How come they can work under the prime minister after the NCM?In Sri Lanka, these politicians have no shame and no policy.Let the prime-minister start doing the work he promised with able efficient and honest MPs as ministers.No it is time for the President to control his party members.people voted MS and Ranil to make the country move forward and not to go back to square one.People are watching.

    • 3
      0

      I don’t think it is advisable to take revenge against those who joined hands with JO in this NCM. It is true that we need to revitalize the 2015 January agenda. First of all, it is very important to bring those criminals who committed crimes against humanity and destroyed the image of the nation. Most of the JO members including Mahinda Rajapakse were responsible for those crimes and it is an urgent need to take legal action against them. As long as they are in politics, there is no future for Srilanka. There purpose is very clear. They want to bring Mahinda and to punish Tamils, Muslims and those Sinhalese who voted against them. They want to create ethnic conflict in order to come to power. Past seven decades this country lost everything because of the same old policy of hatred against minorities get into power. This politics have to change and that is what people wanted in Jan 2015. Any political party or institution should be eliminated.

      • 2
        0

        Ajith:
        “I don’t think it is advisable to take revenge against those who joined hands with JO in this NCM.”
        Its not a matter of revenge. How do you be a part of a team when you have no confidence in the team leader?
        “First of all, it is very important to bring those criminals who committed crimes against humanity and destroyed the image of the nation.”
        This is not possible when the same criminals are part of the government, they are not going to go after their brothers in crime. Wasn’t My3 acting defense minister when the worst form of crimes against humanity happened?

    • 0
      0

      Sasi
      Read the contents of the NCM. Who should be ashamed of themselves?. Those who voted for or against? Your sense of shame seems to be totally lopsided.
      Soma

      • 1
        0

        somass

        “Who should be ashamed of themselves?”

        The No Confidence Motion also charge Ranil with appointing a foreigner for the post of CB governor.
        as below:
        “And whereas appointing a person who is not a citizen of Sri Lanka and has renounced his allegiance and devotion to Sri Lanka by way of the pledge he has given to a foreign country to the office of Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, the post which bears foremost responsibility for the handling of the whole financial system of Sri Lanka;”

        Didn’t it occur to the same donkeys/monkeys and lankeys in the previous government an American was appointed to run the ministry of defense? Does it mean the defense of the country is less important than the functions of Central Bank? Why didn’t the same donkeys/monkeys and lankeys make a big fuss? –

        Did the donkeys/monkeys and lankeys outside the parliament notice that an American is in charge of a most important ministry? My question is pointed at you.

  • 1
    0

    Maithripala sirisena is a very weak and no direction at all type president because he is not aware what should he should do. that is the FIRST PEACE TIME PRESIDENT. ALL OTHERS HAD VERY ARDUOUS TASKA.

  • 5
    0

    President wants more crooks from the previous government to secure his position knowing his underhand NCM project backfired.

    “President extends open invite for MPs to join Government”

  • 0
    0

    “Nonetheless, it is incorrect to come to a conclusion that this victory at the parliamentary sphere reflects change of political configuration at the mass politics level” Precisely Mr. Liyanage. As a result those who defended RW over Bond scam could be at greater risk at next elections.
    Soma.

    • 1
      0

      somass

      Just before the next election anything could happen, a huge thunder could strike, a tsunami 15 times the last one, drought, flood, widespread Chikungunya, a pandemic, ………… or a Chinese governor could be dictating the terms of surrender of Sri Lankan armed forces, mabe the Hindian governor, …………………….. So take it easy.

      Politics does not always form a linear function. The people are not always stupid to vote for crooks and criminals.

      The pro active crooks and criminals cannot expect the voters to comply with ” manufactured consent”.

  • 0
    0

    “election results is a reflection of how masses react, reflect and vote” This is so of developed democratic societies. Not Silly Lanka. Here all you have to do is to massage the anti-Tamil (minority)
    prejudice of the Sinhala voting mass of (of about 75% of the voters) and, presto, you come out winner. That is what happened in 1956, 1960, 1970 and many times in between. It didn’t work in 1977 because the people were virtually in a famine due to the food shortages of Sirimavo’s Leftist-regime. Already the gullible Sinhala Buddhist voter – and the lakhs of “loafer” Buddhist priests – are coached Ranil won the NCM because of the Demalu and a secretive UNP-TNA Agenda. This sells well in our electoral politics and will continue to do so until near-famine and mass disorder is with us again.

    Backlash

  • 0
    0

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 1
    0

    This article just feeds the Sinhalese nationalist ideology as done by some newspaper cartoonists who has no survival without JO type of politics. TNA supported the NCM on 10 conditions and they have been disclosed. None of them are newer from the conditions they gave for Jan 8th, 2015 change of Government. That has been their stand though out. It is reported that President has warned UNP ministers against the NCMs against the SLFP ministers that “THEY WILL BE LURED BY JO IF THAT HAPPENS”. President is kidding…?? He thinks that they are not with the JO now while being Cabinet Ministers….?? Only what it proves is that they do all these with the blessings of the President. But for what? Just to Minister Harin Fernando very correctly said in his NCM debate speech the government’s top priority now should be to get rid of the leeches within rather than focusing on the JO. They are pulling by the leg from within to cripple the march forward in all fronts with the sole aim of crippling the government’s good governance agenda and discrediting the government in future elections. PM is off his nuts if he has advised the UNP back benchers to withdraw the NCMs. I wonder if PM has to be worried of President’s warnings that he will have to strip the ministers for criticizing the President during LG polls campaign if the NCMs are moved, because 19th amendment to the constitution doesn’t provide room for President to remove ministers at his will. Even if he has the UNP must be smart enough to exploit such a move by president to show the masses that President himself is behind all these moves.

  • 1
    0

    The problem for MS is that he is saddled with the leadership of the SLFP. He must now get rid of this, hand over to someone else as he is not contesting again, be neutral and let the SLFPers in the cabinet resign and join the opposition and let the UNP run the govt till his term ends. In the meantime he can help pass good non controversial legislation in parliament that does not need 2/3rd majority. We will then have a vibrant opposition and that’s good for parliamentary democracy . The opposition leader we have now is not national minded and not playing his real role. MS can still ensure his yahapalanaya agenda in the next 18months with the UNP and retire peacefully saying I have done a good job.

    • 0
      0

      Don’t blame Mr. Sampanthan for the country’s political distortion. He is the most experienced and ablest political leader in the House. Take trouble to read his
      well-prepared and precise speeches. The distortion is the weakness in the Sinhala parties. There are at least 3 of them major and several minor, which is the problem.
      The anti-UNP parties poised against the UNP themselves are more than three.
      Sampanthan has a mandate to recover the many needs and rights of the Tamil people. Either he is helped to secure these or back to serious conflict again. You cannot solve the Tamil issue by destroying all the Tamil people. Let’s not forget an effort was made that ended in 2009. The region and the world made certain there is no total genocide of the Lankan Tamil people.

      R. Varathan

  • 1
    0

    Absolutely accureate, spot-on analysis by an honest academic I don’t know him!). His point about this victory in parliament through Tamil Muslim (self-interested) support and corrupt payments to UNP rebels and SLFP ministers will not translate in to an election victory. Ranil will try to ‘wither on the vine’ or occupy leadership as long as he can, but the country will be going to hell. He simply hasn’t the capacity to develop the country. We are in deep shit, to put it mildly.

  • 0
    0

    [edited out]
    that is how he has ruled the unp all these years
    unless a new leader emerges who can bell the cat the party will continue down the gadarene slope

  • 0
    0

    The unity government has had three years to deliver on its promises, but has miserably failed, especially on corruption , minority issues, and cost of living. The local government election results and the no confidence motion should be a wake up call. Whether they can achieve anything in the next few years is quite doubtful as they will now play safe politics.

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